In 2018, Russia hosted a memorable World Cup, partly because the host nation made an admirable run to the quarter-final. They lost to eventual runners-up Croatia on penalties, and made their fans fall back in love with the sport in the process.
When you take a look at that 2018 squad, there aren’t many promising players that could play for top teams in Europe. The names that made headlines during the World Cup were Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba, who are both past their prime at this point. That being said, one man went under the radar, despite being crucial to the Russian setup and scoring a wonderful free-kick in the tournament opener. Midfielder Alexsandr Golovin is only 23, and moved to AS Monaco from CSKA Moscow for $30 million just after the World Cup. Since joining in 2018, Monaco have not been at their best.
Despite being listed as an attacking playmaker, Golovin plays a box-to-box role for Monaco. He has the ability to play as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2 setup, and occasionally lines up as the more attacking midfielder in a 4-3-3. His combination of physical presence and skill gives him a certain versatility that managers can’t find anywhere. A similar player (positionally) is United’s Bruno Fernandes, a silky attacking midfielder who has the ball retention skills and work rate that will occasionally see him deployed in a deeper role.
The Premier League hasn’t seen a Russian star since 2012, during the times of Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin and Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko. Golovin has the positional presence and physicality to play in the Premier League. He’s also played in the cold Russian tundra his entire life, meaning he’s probably up for any challenge. If Pogba were to depart for Juventus or Madrid, I could see him as a worthy replacement. Other potential landing spots could be Arsenal (who could always use a midfield revamp), Wolves (who will need to replace the aging Moutinho with another versatile player), and Everton (who have lost significant midfield presence since the departure of Idrissa Gueye).
Golovin singed for Monaco in 2018 amid rumors linking him to Juventus and Chelsea. At the time, he claimed he was afraid of the language barrier. He stated moving to England or Italy didn’t make sense at the time, but will that change if Monaco don’t improve their form?